College Park councilman joins complaints, says harassment, retaliation take place at city

A College Park councilman says he was retaliated against for supporting four female city employees — three former managers and one current employee — who have filed federal discrimination complaints against the city.

Councilman Roderick Gay filed charges against College Park through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January, stating that he witnessed a “hostile workplace” and harassment against employees by elected officials. Gays says he is considering a lawsuit against the city.

Gay said in his complaint that he was passed over for an appointment as Mayor Pro Tem and an appointment as a member of the city’s development authority during a City Council meeting on Jan. 3. He said those decisions were made after he had spoken out against discriminatory behavior for months.

Councilman Ambrose Clay is Mayor Pro Tem, and said he accepted the appointment because he was asked to serve in the position by fellow Councilmember Ken Allen. Clay said he plans to retire at the end of the current term after serving 16 years on City Council.

Neither Clay, nor councilman Joe Carn, who has served since 2005, would comment on Gay’s allegations. College Park attorney Winston Denmark did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

The EEOC dismissed Gay’s complaint, but gave him notice of a right to sue the city by the end of April.

“I’m mostly just trying to get my colleagues to be fair and equitable and respectful,” Gay said. “I have been the voice (for) those that have been retaliated against, or discriminated (against), wrongfully terminated or had to exist in a hostile workplace.”

Artur Davis, the attorney for the four women accusing the city of sexism, harassment and retaliatory behavior, said he expects to receive EEOC notices of a right to sue for each of them within a week, and would file lawsuits in March.

Davis represents Deputy Police Chief Sharis McCrary, former City Manager Darnetta Tyus, former acting communications manager Mahersala Howard, and former City Engineer Loretta Washington. All are Black women.

Davis said that multiple complaints of discrimination in a small municipality is unusual.

“They left the organization believing they were victims of some form of discrimination,” Davis said.

McCrary’s EEOC complaint says that, after serving as interim chief, she was blocked from promotion to become the permanent police chief by the city council and Mayor Bianca Motley Broom, who is Black.

Tyus, who is currently city manager of Stone Mountain, was fired from her College Park position during advance stages of reviewing candidates for the permanent police chief position.

Davis says he believes Tyus and McCrary’s cases are connected. Tyus was terminated after only four months in her job.

In Howard’s complaint, the former communications specialist said that she experienced a hostile work environment last summer, after being notified that she was not promoted to permanent communications director. Howard states that she was “regarded (negatively) as an individual with a disability” and was unaware that she was the subject of a 30-day investigation related to her work and a perceived mental health disability.

Davis said the Americans with Disabilities Act has protections for employees who are treated differently by supervisors because of a perceived disability.

“Being mistreated at work can literally make you sick,” Davis said. “We certainly will be seeking damages at College Park.”

Washington filed her complaint against the city in 2021 and recently hired Davis, he said.

Her complaint states that she experienced sexual and racial harassment starting from her first day at work as City Engineer in March 2020. Washington says in her statement that in addition to harassment, a project manager violated city ordinances and put her job at risk. Washington said she was terminated in 2021 after complaining.

Washington stated that she took nearly two weeks medical leave due to stress during her employment.

Gay said harassment and retaliation in the city’s administration is permitted by his colleagues.

“There really truly is discrimination, retaliation by our elected officials,” he said. “As a result of me complaining publicly about what was happening, I feel like I was retaliated against.”